US ‘very concerned’ over Turkish drills offshore Cyprus

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Washington is “absolutely concerned” over developments in offshore Cyprus and the Aegean with Turkey warned its illegal drilling and accord with Libya are unhelpful, said a US State Department senior official.

Turkey has conducted six illegal drilling operations in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone and tried to disrupt gas exploration by international firms in Cypriot waters.

It also signed a memorandum of understanding with the Libyan GNA on maritime zones exacerbating tensions with Greece.

“We are absolutely concerned about the developments both off the Cypriot coast and potentially in the Aegean,” State Department Assistant Secretary for European Affairs Matthew Palmer told a virtual meeting with Greek correspondents.

He said the US “made it very clear to Ankara that we consider what Turkey has been doing, the drilling operations, the MOU reached with the Libyan authorities, that we consider those actions to be unhelpful, counterproductive and not contributing to the stability and security.”

Palmer said Washington “fully support the rights of the Republic of Cyprus to develop hydrocarbon exploration in its EEZ.”

“We have been clear about our expectations in our private messaging and in public about how we would expect everyone in the Eastern Mediterranean to behave and to support international law and to act in a manner that is conducive to security, and we have been quite clear in our conversations with our Turkish partners about our concerns.”

Palmer recalled that Turkey is not a signatory of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and has “different legal interpretations” about rights of island states.

“We had conversations with our Turkish partners about that. But I do know that Turkey’s view, Turkey’s understanding of the legal frame is different than ours; it is different from Cyprus’, different from Greece’s, and different from most countries of the world.

That is one of the fundamental underlying challenges and it is something that we will have to work to address with our friends and partners and allies.

Trying to manage frictions and tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.”

“We are committed to stability and security in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Republic of Cyprus is a supportive partner in this effort.”

Palmer said he disagrees with comments suggesting the EU has little interest in the Eastern Mediterranean and that it has transferred its role to Turkey.

“We remain deeply committed to the region. We remain deeply committed to our partnerships in the region.

This is a globally strategically important area for the US. We are committed to deepening and strengthening the security partnerships and the broad relationships that we have across the region, including with the Republic of Cyprus as well as with our allies Turkey, Greece, Israel and other states in the region.” (source CNA)